Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Scheduled Maintenance

When I climbed into my car yesterday morning, and the yellow wrench lit up indicating that it is indeed time for another oil change, a thought occurred to me: our bodies are like the cars we drive. We expect them to perform day in and day out, whether we’re going short or going long.

Like any machine, no matter how well it runs, it’s going to breakdown from time-to-time, particularly as the miles accumulate. But as they tell you with your car, you’ve got to take it in for scheduled maintenance once in a while. If you don’t, you start hearing those abnormal sounds, the kind that call for pause, the music volume goes down, and you listen with narrowed eyes.

If there was a yellow wrench to light up on my body, it would have been going off on Monday night. I went out for my easy Monday night recovery run (in the rain yet again) and something just felt off. I kept the pace light, my breath barely elevated above a huff, but I couldn’t get my body to follow. My legs felt achy, my sides sore.

Around mile 2, I began to climb and started thinking how remarkable it had been that I ran a 5K PR Thursday, wracked up another 5.2 on Friday, then had that amazing 13.5 cut-down through the woods on Saturday and was no worse for wear. Famous last words.

Reaching the top of the hill at mile 3, I felt an all too familiar tightness in my right IT band – the injury (that nagging, stubborn injury) sidelined me for most of the summer. And I wondered if I’d have to spend the next few weeks, anxiety ridden on my runs, wondering if at any moment it was going to start hurting again. Instead of slowing down, I did the equivalent of turning up the radio volume to pretend that grating, out-of-the-ordinary sound wasn’t there.

I trucked on, completing my easy 6-miler and the subsequent striders that follow it. I still felt tight and limped slightly. Visibly agitated when I returned, I felt that pending dread that comes on when the car needs to go in and you’re bracing because it could cost some major bucks – or in this case, time off the roads.

I essentially hit the panic button and went into maintenance overdrive. It started by popping two Motrin. Then I hit the shower and blasted it with cold water – an old trick I learned from my college hockey trainer. Starting warm, I held the nozzle to the outside of my knee, then closed my eyes whilst turning the knob clockwise. Well, there may as well have been icicles shooting out. My breath left me and I grit my teeth, but finally, it went numb and I could only feel the cold droplets falling on my feet. Sweet relief. As the blood returned and that old feeling you had when you were a kid coming in from playing out in the snow and your feet burn as they thaw came on. It felt glorious…life returning.

After showering, I headed to the basement, stretched for a half hour, foam rolled, then slapped an ice pack on it and reclined on the couch with my feet up. I’d like to say it stopped here, but I continued. Before crawling into bed, I took “the stick” to it then emptied a packet of Biofreeze onto the entire outside of my leg. Once in bed and asleep, I let (prayed) my body heal itself.

When I woke up, it was a little stiff, but felt pretty good. I made sure to get up and walk around during the day at work, but the ultimate question still hung in the air…do I still do my interval workout or push it off until Wednesday? I rolled my fingers over it all day, hoping that awful crunch was gone…and by lunch time, it was.

Around 3:00, I decided to go for it, see how it felt on my warmup and proceed from there. Naturally, the workout wasn’t an easy one, 4x2000m followed by 4x200m. My second trick (torture?), other than the cold water in the shower, is to put heat on it while I’m stretching prior to a run. That seems to loosen things up nicely.

Heading out on my 1-mile warmup, I felt a little tight in the beginning but knew that any downhill running would be the true test…I passed. Crisis, thankfully, averted. I completed the workout, didn’t give a thought to the IT band until I got back to the house and realized that I hadn’t even thought about it during the run. I repeated the above “maintenance” last night and am taking a much needed day off today. Fortunately, no long term costs incurred.

Now, about that oil change on the car.

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